JOIN US IN AN INTERVIEW WITH RAHMA KHAN FROM MUSCAT, OMAN !
Rahma Khan is the blogger behind ‘The Sane Adventurer‘, a blog aimed at safe travels and adventures in off the beaten tracks around the world. An engineer by profession and a traveler by passion, Rahma is currently just ten countries old. However, her love for traveling across all the continents is slowly but passionately taking her to new places. Rahma is an expatriate born, grown up and lived all of her life in Muscat, Oman. She considers herself an Omani by heart and has traveled in and around Muscat all of her life. Rahma is currently planning to travel to new destinations and document her experiences and adventures on her blog, The Sane Adventurer.
Steeped in history and spectacular geography, Muscat, the capital of Oman is a welcoming city with a relaxed air, greenery and barren peaks. Muscat oozes Arabian charm and style at every turn and is a must-visit for those who love modern twists on traditional architecture. Since Islam is the religion of the majority in Oman, the city of Muscat is dotted throughout with timeless and magnificent mosques.
Which is the best time to visit Muscat?
The coastal city of Muscat is a very hot and humid city. The weather remains considerably hot for the most part of the year. The peak summer months start from April until August. During these months, there is no rain and the climate remains considerably dry and hot. The temperature during these months can reach at a maximum of 50 to 52 degrees Celsius on some days. Though Muscat has a wonderful terrain of mountains and beaches however, due to the extremely hot weather, the outdoor activities are not recommended.
The months of September to November are relatively cooler than the peak summer months but the humidity level shoots high during these months, which means getting soaked in sweat is pretty normal at this time. However, as the extreme summer heat eventually calms down a bit, September to November is a great time to do all the outdoor activities. From hiking to beach parties and eating at the outdoor eateries. Also, the 18th of November is the National Day of Oman, which witnesses several spectacular firework shows across the city, with car rallies and street parties all over Muscat. It is a unique experience to witness the national day celebration in Oman.
The ideal time to visit Muscat is from December to March. These are the winter months in Oman, which a relatively ‘less warm’ from the rest of the year. The weather remains perfect at this time of the year with pleasant afternoons and cool breezy nights. Omanis love the winter in Oman and people can be seen in huge numbers walking in the parks, visiting the beaches and staying outdoors for most of the time. The best thing about the winters in Oman is the weather remains really pleasant throughout the day. It is neither too cold nor snowy to cause inconvenience or too hot similar to the rest of the year. To experience the real beauty and charm of Muscat, December to March is the best time to visit.
Which is the most convenient and favoured transport of Muscat?
The best way to explore in Muscat is to rent a car and drive around the city. Oman has some of the best roads in the entire Middle East region. Driving in Oman is essential in order to get a complete taste of its amazing roads. There are many car rentals available at the airport.
However, if renting out a car is not in the plan, then the most favorable option is to use the Mwasalat Bus Service. I would like to mention that public transport in Oman is not the most convenient but gradually the city is moving towards a cheaper and convenient mode of transportation. The city of Muscat is divided into three main zones for the Mwasalat Bus service. Traveling within the same zone costs 0.100 baiza, zone one to zone two costs 0.200 baiza, and zone one to zone three costs 0.300 baiza. The bus ticket can be directly purchased from the bus driver while entering the bus. The buses tend to get crowded during the morning and evening time, particularly when the offices close around 5 PM.
The other means of transportation include the Mwasalat Taxis and the orange taxis. The Mwasalat taxis are metered cabs similar to Uber, which commute at a fixed per kilometer rate. The taxi can be booked through the Mwasalat taxi app (available both on iOS and Android). The orange taxis are shared taxis, which can be relatively more expensive or less expensive than the Mwasalat taxis totally depending on how much the driver will charge you. These taxis are not metered and the price of the ride is solely depended on the driver’s wish. Feel free to negotiate and finalize a price before you enter the taxi.
Which are the top 3 must visit places in Muscat?
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque : Muscat is home to some incredibly beautiful mosques in the region. The stunning Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is situated in the heart of the city along the Sultan Qaboos road. It is the only mosque in Oman opened for people from different religious beliefs and values. Five brown high minarets surround the mosque, with several huge verandas and gardens inside to accommodate large numbers of people during the Friday prayers and Eid prayers. The main prayer hall features a huge fourteen meters tall chandelier, which is also the largest chandelier in the world. There are also many small chandeliers hung all across the mosque. The Sultan Qaboos mosque is a must visit for everyone visiting Muscat and wanting to get a true taste of Islamic Arab culture.
Note: While visiting the mosque, men should wear full-length trousers. Women are required to wear dresses covering from shoulders to ankles with a headscarf as a symbol of respect.
Muttrah Fort In Muscat : The iconic Muttrah fort has been recently reopened for the public after a long period of restoration and renovation. The Muttrah Fort stands tall and high on a rocky hill facing the beautiful Oman coastline and the Muttrah Corniche. The fort was built in the 16th century by the Portuguese traders and it was used for monitoring the operations undergoing at the harbor. The fort comprises of three rocky circular towers; a bigger one in the center of the summit with two small ones in the West. Near the fort an old canon is placed, guarding it against the Northside. The fort is free to enter.
Al Qurm Beach or Shatti Beach : Al Qurm beach or also called the Shatti beach is one of the main tourist attractions in Muscat and one of the most popular Oman beaches. Al Qurm beach lies in the heart of the city and is surrounded by famous hotels, restaurants, and a shopping district. It is undoubtedly one of the busiest public beaches in Oman but that has not affected the charm and beauty the beach has to offer. A long stretch of sandy path along the blue waters is a perfect rejuvenation to unwind the hustle of daily life. Also, the palm trees on the beach make it a great picturesque spot for your beach holiday. There are a few water sports operators and rentals on the beach in case you are up to any water adventure (you will usually not find these on other Oman beaches). Swim in the clear warm waters, indulge in water activities, play beach volleyball or silently read a book, Al Qurm beach has something to offer to everyone.
What are the best day trips for nature, culture and history from Muscat ?
Muscat to Jebal Shams Tour : Jebal Shams is the world’s second largest Grand Canyon and the second highest mountain peak within the Arabian Peninsula. What makes it more amazing is the fact that it is merely at a 3-hour drive away from Muscat. The guided tour also comprises visits to the nearby villages where people are still living in houses built from rocks.
Highlights: Off-road drive in Wadi Ghul (Grand Canyon), hiking or mountain bike riding (optional), visit mountain villages.
Wadi Abyadh & Wakan Village Tour : This tour will take you to an exotic getaway away from the chaos of the city life. Wadi Abyadh is an extremely picturesque oasis lying in the heart of mountains. The spring water oasis surrounded with dates trees plantations will give you a perfect vibe to rejuvenate within nature. After having a quick swim in the cool waters of the Wadi, the tour then continues to the agriculture village of Wakan. The Wakan Village sits at an altitude of 1700 meters and it can be reached by a small hike of 700 steps. The main viewpoint of the village gives a wonderful panoramic view of Al Hajar mountain range in a distance and streams of fresh waters flowing down from the mountains.
Highlights: Barka camel breeding farm, date plantation farm, Wadi Abyadh, Wakan village.
Dolphin Watching and Snorkeling Tour :
The Bandar Al Khairan Island near the coast of Muscat harbor is a famous place for spotting bottlenose dolphins throughout the year. The tour starts from Marina Al Rowdha, which is a twenty minutes speedboat ride that eventually reaches the dolphin watching spot. After dolphin watching, the captain takes the boat to the main snorkeling site of Bandar Al Khairan. Vibrant and healthy coral reefs, shoals of clownfishes and even turtles can be very easily spotted. (Note: spotting a turtle highly depends on the turtle nesting season).
Highlights: Dolphin watching, snorkeling, island tour
Which is the most celebrated holiday in Muscat?
The most celebrated holiday in Muscat is the National Day of Oman that falls on the 18th of November. It is the time when the Omanis show their love for the country and the ruling King Sultan Qaboos Bin Said. It is a weeklong party, where the locals decorate their cars with flags and street parties happen at designated places in the city.
Muscat also celebrates the Renaissance Day on the 23rd of July; to mark the anniversary of the ruling king taking charge of Oman. it is a national holiday in the country and it is celebrated with extreme zeal and enthusiasm by the locals.
Eid is the religious festival that is celebrated twice a year by the locals. As Eid is celebrated following the Islamic calendar, therefore it dates keep changing every year. A week-long holiday is given to celebrate Eid in Muscat.
What is the most loved local food, savory and sweet of Muscat? Is it vegetarian friendly?
Omanis are really fond of eating a date desert called “Halwa” with a traditional Omani version of black coffee called “Kahwa”. The Halwa is made in a huge pan with de-seeded dates, sugar syrup, and honey. It is a must-try delicacy to eat while in Muscat. In order to balance the sweetness of the Halwa, drinking Kahwa is a traditional Omani way of enjoying the delicacy. As there are date trees to be found everywhere in Muscat, dates, and Kahwa is served free of cost in most of the public places, restaurants, and even offices.
As the population of expatriates is the highest in Muscat, therefore, different countries cuisines are easily found in Muscat. A high number of Indian, Philippines, and Pakistani restaurant is easily available that serve veg and non-veg food both.
Where to head for shopping in Muscat?
The Muttrah Souq (Muttrah market), is just across the street from Corniche. It is a congested market with local vendors selling in their small stalls all sorts of souvenirs, headscarves, bags, Arab style chandeliers, home décor, possibly anything you can think of (quite similar to the Bukit Bintang street market in Kuala Lumpur). Seeing tourists, vendors might offer an expensive price; however, feel free to bargain as much as you can. Do grab some souvenirs at a discounted/bargained price from the Muttrah Souq; this will be the cheapest you can shop in Muscat!
What is the local craft or speciality of Muscat?
An Arabian dagger is the national symbol of Oman, and is one of the most popular souvenir. As the cultural values in and around the Muscat city are very rich, traditional copper jewelry of Muscat is very unique. It is a must-buy from Muscat.
Which are the best streets of Muscat worthy of taking a stroll on?
Muttrah Corniche is a long stretch of the beautiful Oman coastline running across the city of Muscat. It is built around the main port of Muscat, which was redesigned by the government to turn industrialization into tourism. The long walkway runs parallel with the coastline with low-rise buildings, small cafes, and mosques on the other side of the road. The Muttrah Corniche walk is the most popular spot in Muscat. You will find residents and tourists taking a stroll around while enjoying the waves hitting the rocks with many ships anchored along the harbor. Also, you can hire and ride a bike for free!
Can you suggest a place from where one can get the best view of the city?
Muscat is set in the lap of the mountains. To get a perfect view of the port city, a small hike is essential. The Riyam-Muttrah hike is a short hike lying in the city center of Muscat. It is a relatively easy hike and very popular among the residents. You will not be left alone on the hiking trail particularly on the weekends.
The hike starts with a series of rocky uneven steps which will gradually take you to the view of the old Muttrah Souq (Old Market), the main local shopping district in Muttrah. As you climb further, views of the beautiful Arabian ocean with the corniche road running along it soon becomes visible. The steps eventually end at a viewpoint from where a sight of Mina Al Falah is visible. The view of houses constructed in the lap of mountains overlooking the Arabian ocean is indeed a refreshing sight. The hike then descends to an abandoned village where nothing except some fallen walls here and there can be seen.
The Ministry of Tourism manages the hiking trail but you won’t find any signs to guide you. Therefore it is advisable to keep your GPS on or accompany someone who is familiar with the hike.
Would you suggest any shows in Muscat to music or art lovers?
The Royal Opera House of Muscat is the main center of arts and culture. It is a magnificent royal property that reflects Arabesque architecture and is popular in the entire country. It was built to represent Oman’s contemporary approach towards arts and culture. You will see giant chandeliers in and outside the building. It features concert theatres, auditoriums, gardens, retail stores, and luxury restaurants. Also, the whole complex is extremely picturesque and looks even more beautiful after the sunset. Royal Opera is a must visit site for someone who loves to explore arts and culture while traveling. The complex remains open everyday.
Would you recommend any local apps for food, transport or hidden gems in Muscat?
Mwasalat Taxi App : ‘Mwasalat’ is the Uber in Oman. This transport service is run by the government and is the best and the safest transport option if you are travelling solo.
Marhaba Taxi Oman : Marhaba is another taxi service in Oman which is now owned by Mwasalat. So downloading the Mwasalat app will actually serve the purpose for the tourists.
Talabat Oman : Talabat is a food ordering and delivery service app for Oman. It covers almost all of the international and local food joints in Oman. You can avail many offers and discounts if you order the meal through Talabat.